Saturday, October 08, 2011

The land of the not so free

I heart the US. It's a land of opportunity and awesome people. So varied and, well, ethnic. It's possibly the most mixed country ive been to. Step outside JFK airport and you're beset by a tsunami of blacks, browns, whites, jaundice, pink and the odd grey. It's glorious. Traveling through the 'States there are often pockets and sub-pockets of race, gender, class, sexual orientation and nationality. I was never treated with less than respect and welcome. Which is a shame as it seems to an outsider that the same can't be said for most of their own citizens.

Americans have an obsession and it's colour is green: money, and grubbing every last bit of it they can get. Yeah, they do it in India and Asia but there they don't have any to begin with. So many times you get turned over by a corporation, basic requests ignored as it'll cost them a cent or two, services not given or plain denied. They might wish you a nice day but the customer service sucks big time. American Airlines definition of a flight meal is an apple. They charge for baggage. Any baggage. Not just over 100kgs but the tiniest thing you want to stow.

Greyhound, the largest US bus service is awful. They go everywhere but they're overpriced, the buses are shit and the drivers surly. Thank god for young upstart Megabus.

Ask any shop,person for anything out of the slightly ordinary and you may as well have spat in their face. OMG! How dare you ask for less ice? Well I'd like some coke in the glass, thanks. And no that doesn't justify me giving you a tip.

Most of the time I came across these....discrepancies just because I'm a cheap-ass traveller and don't want to spend money but for a lot of Americans it's day to day. I'm talking about the poor. It doesn't matter what their colour or race, sex or anything else, if you've got money you're made, if you haven't tough shit. It gets worse the further south you go.

America is the richest nation on the planet and you'd never know it. I've seen some of the worst poverty in a first world,nation I've ever seen in the US. The gap between rich and poor is so ridiculously wide as to be the Grand Canyon and this is in a land awash with shopping malls. There are entire armies of homeless, people made of bones, wandering the streets. Detroit looks like a zombie wasteland until you look in the restaurant windows and see the rich, eating their tasty food.

It's a tragedy and an embarrassment of epic proportion. But it's not just rue rich against the poor. The poor hate their fellow poor just as much. There's no camaraderie, no friendship. It's a human eat dog world, and this dog is mine so get your lice ridden hands off it.

Americans have so bought into the concept of making it good, making it big, making your own way in the world that they've developed a national psyche that says "this is mine and I also want yours" to such a level its surprising they haven't invaded Mexico yet. I often talk with fellow travelers about how insular Americans can be. Very few are aware of events outside their border, be it town, state or country (I have a wonderful anecdote about them not knowing the UK was at war with Argentina) but it's hardly surprising when they have to focus so much on retaining what they have. Why worry about the starving in Africa when there're people dying down the block?

I think I'm right in saying that no other major nation on earth denies it's citizens basic fundamental needs and rights yet comsistently AND (presumably and allegedly) DEMOCRATICALLY votes in people that won't give them these things. There is a cancer in America and it art you.


Carolinita (your toblerone girl) said...

Jayjay, you are growing up. This one is very mature, and I think the same...even though I love their shopping malls ;)

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